Disclaimer: This story is based on characters created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoat Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. Any original plots, ideas, and characters are mine.


Thanks to all reviewers of last chapter, you always motivate me to carry on! ^.^

Another super speedy update, I'm spoiling you *winks*. Enjoy!

Warnings: mention of sex-related topics and somewhat explicit pedophilia.

Italics for foreign languages, mostly German.

Part I: Chapter 65

Kasimira Von Krauss drummed her long, red fingernails against the top of her desk. She was in her private dormitory in Durmstrang, her school trunk at her side, as she counted the minutes for the school's bells to chime the hour.

She had packed days in advance, it seemed, in preparation for that very moment: the end of her O.W.L. examinations, the moment they could all leave school for their 'homes'.

She had done brilliantly, of course, she hadn't even broken a sweat during the practice part of the Dark Arts test. The proctors at Durmstrang had been left suitably impressed by her skills, though she certainly wouldn't be missing any of it.

It would be her last day of having to suffer the children and professors of Durmstrang, her last day as a Von Krauss. Sixteen years old and, finally, she would commence her new life, she would become her own person.

"Are you certain it will work?" Kasimira demanded from the small portrait laid on top of her desk.

"When have I ever failed you, girl?" replied the woman in a heavily and strangely accented German.

Kasimira contemplated her Großmutter - her paternal grandmother, her mentor, her salvation. She still remembered, as though it was yesterday, the day she had encountered her.

Six years old, she had been, a silly, stupid little girl still trying to impress her father, to be considered worthy, to be loved. Running through the halls of Von Krauss Castle, crying, after a lesson with her Dark Arts tutor – where she had been commended by her teacher, yet her father had failed once more to be present, to observe how well she was doing, how 'intelligent and exceptionally gifted' she was, as all her tutors declared with much pride.

By accident, she had suddenly found herself in one of the long-abandoned and disused wings of the castle. Even knowing she wasn't allowed in those parts, she had been too pathetically distraught by another failure in her attempts of catching her father's attention.

She had thrown herself unto the dusty floors and covered her small head with her arms, letting loose all her hurt and anger in a tantrum of tears.

"I am a Von Krauss," she had croaked furiously into her thin arms. "I am his daughter – his heir!"

"Heir?" a sharp, amused voice had answered, making Kasimira stiffen and glance up, frowning when she saw a portrait of a woman staring down at her. "If I know Konrad, you lack a cock between your legs, girl, to be considered his heir. He'll never see you as one."

Kasimira had gaped at her, stunned. Not by what the portrait said, but how she said it. Never had anyone spoken like that to her before, never with such words that would make her own prim and puffed-up mother have a shrieking fit.

Her icy blue eyes had roved over the portrait, taking notice of the woman's strange, beguiling appearance, her olive skin, her large, almond-shaped black eyes, her thick curtains of raven hair, her enticing, dark beauty, along with the strange magical tattoo swirling along her nose, and she gasped.

"You – you're The Gypsy!" Kasimira had chocked out, jumping to her feet, both fearful and fascinated.

"Gypsy?" sneered the woman scornfully, skewering her with an angered black gaze. "That is a despicable muggle term, girl, that pays no tribute to my forebears or race. I am a Romani. I am your grandmother. I am Mahala."

"I know," whispered Kasimira under her breath, taking a step closer to the portrait, brimming with long-held intrigue.

Her mother Ludmilla had long made clear that she was forbidden from asking any questions about her paternal grandmother. Her father, who barely spared her two words, would talk of the mother whom he had never truly known even less. Kasimira's father had been taken by Ulrich and Gellert Grindelwald when he had been a little boy, accompanying them in their voyages, being haphazardly raised so.

The little she knew was from the nasty whispers, insults, and mocking jeers from other pureblooded children her age.

Her grandfather Ulrich's wife had been infamous in her day. A witch of great beauty and power, from a very old family in Germany, yet of Gypsy ancestry, the wealth of her family often attributed to very dark dealings, of gambling and swindling, from the strange illnesses and sudden deaths that struck their enemies, from obtaining riches and power through unknown Dark sorcery.

It was said that Mahala had put Ulrich Von Krauss under a spell, forcing him to fall in love with her. Kasimira had always doubted that, she knew Von Krausses married for money and influence, and Mahala's family had been vastly wealthy once upon a time, before her grandfather Ulrich had spent both fortunes in his dallyings with Gellert Grindelwald all across the world.

"You lack a cock, girl," Mahala had continued, a sharp smile forming on her plump lips. "Do you understand?"

Kasimira frowned, before she nodded uncertainly.

Mahala let out a dry chuckle, as she arched a finely sculpted black eyebrow. "No, you don't. Do you know what a 'cock' is, girl? Never seen one, have you? It is what men – be it muggle or wizard – think with. It is what you don't have – but you do have something else between your thighs, do you not? That, is your best tool."

The six-year-old Kasmira had puzzledly glanced down at her gown, as she heard her grandmother's portrait laughing at her.

"I see I have much to teach you. And I will, when you dry your tears, girl. Romani witches don't cry."

And so it had begun, what Kasimira would come to consider the most useful of life lessons.

With her father always gone in missions for the Dark Lord, and her Russian mother more interested in her social life and parties, rarely taking Kasimira with her when she took residence in her beloved Russia but rather leaving her in Germany to be raised by the house-elves, Mahala had become her true parent.

"Would you like to learn, girl?" Mahala had pressed, a devious twist to the corner of her lips. "Not from your horrid mother, I dare say. That frigid hag hasn't shared my son's bed in ages, from what all the portraits tell me. But you could learn from your father."

It was thus that a little Kasimira had discovered the true use of the many mirrors hanging all about Von Krauss Castle. Before then, she had only heard that Mahala had been a witch so obsessed with her beauty that, once she had married Ulrich Von Krauss, she had littered the castle with mirrors to always be able to contemplate her own perfection.

As it went, the truth was quite different, as Mahala explained to her the system of secret corridors that could be accessed through the many mirrors, built by a wizard mason that Mahala had commissioned and later poisoned to death at the conclusion of the work. Secret passageways meant to allow Mahala to have her long chain of young lovers visiting her at nights without society finding out.

Mirrors that were double-faced, allowing Kasimira to observe what happened in Von Krauss Castle from within the secret corridors.

It had been with a strange sense of both detachment and interest that she had watched her father in his bedroom, spending the night with a witch she recognized as one of the mothers of the few pureblood children she was allowed to interact with.

The 'sex' – as Mahala had termed it when explaining the subject - between them hadn't looked very inspired, rather mechanical, as though it was a mere, perfunctory physical release, since her father had performed swiftly and without much passion or interest. The witch had seemed much more involved and needful, though she had been quickly dismissed by Konrad. She had been one in a very long series of pureblood women.

"My son is seeking to produce a male heir," Mahala's portrait had told her later that night, a glint in her dark eyes. "Your mother refuses to bear him any more children." She chuckled sharply. "At least, in that, I tip my hat to Ludmilla."

"My father wouldn't-" little Kasimira had gritted out from between clenched teeth. "An heir must be a trueborn!"

"Konrad is desperate enough to consider having a bastard as an heir, clearly," interrupted Mahala mercilessly. "As long as it is born with a cock."

"He'll never accept me?" had mumbled Kasimira in a weak voice, but even then, the fact had no longer hurt, she had already begun to see it in a different scope, thanks to her grandmother.

It was no longer about obtaining her father's favor and affection – she no longer loved either of her parents, if she ever had. It had become a matter of ensuring her position as their sole heiress, of attaining the only means for her liberty.

"No," replied Mahala curtly, before she gave her a sharp, wide smile. "But there is a solution. Blood Magic and Potions is what we, Romani, specialize in. Our knowledge is our own. Never shared with outsiders, never recorded. We pass it on, from mother to child. My son," she added in a caustic tone, "never cared to learn it from me. He spurned my race, my foolish, unfeeling Konrad."

"What is the solution?" demanded little Kasimira sharply.

"Poison, of course," Mahala calmly retorted, before she pierced her with a gauging look. "If you consent to learn the Romani ways, you'll find that sex is not the only tool available for a girl of your station and ancestry."

"Why teach me?" Kasimira pressed, scrutinizing her grandmother's portrait.

"Not because I ever fancied the task of raising a child," Mahala scoffed acidly. "I never possessed a motherly bone in my body. My son was taken from me at a young age, and even now he's unsuitable." She gave her a sardonic twist of the lips. "Konrad has ice in his veins, not Romani blood. You, on the other hand… I see myself in you, girl."

Kasimira had gazed dubiously at the portrait. There was little resemblance between them. She had the Von Krauss looks, the frosty blue eyes, the pale, sandy blonde hair, whilst Mahala was dark. There was merely a similar shape of their faces and mouths.

"Not in appearance," Mahala clarified curtly, "but in situation in life. What society allows pureblood witches to attain in life is very limited, is it not?" She skewered her with her dark gaze, as she added fiercely, "If you want freedom, girl, you must kill for it. As I did. No one will give it to you, otherwise."

"Kill?" Kasimira frowned at her. "Who? How?"

"Who?" chuckled Mahala. "Your competition, to begin with." She narrowed her black eyes at her. "Do you accept my terms?"

"Will your teachings really help me?" pressed Kasimira uncertainly.

"Of course," retorted Mahala, giving her a feral smile. "Who do you think killed your grandfather Ulrich?"

Staring at the portrait, fascinated, Kasimira had nodded without a second thought after that.

Indeed, it had been widely believed that it had been Egon Erlichmann who had managed to kill Ulrich Von Krauss so many years ago when her grandfather had returned to Germany with Gellert Grindelwald. The feud between the Erlichmanns and Von Krausses was legendary.

Even she had always despised the Erlichmanns, especially when everyone seemed to be always jabbering about their perfect heir – perfect, male, Julian Erlichmann who was so very bright and talented, who made his father proud. Who was everything a dark pureblood heir should be because he had what Kasimira lacked: a cock.

She had often overheard Egon Erlichmann yammering about his dear son Julian during gatherings, and she had seen her father's expression, the wrath but worse, the envy, because his most hated rival had a son and he did not.

To discover that it had been her own Gypsy grandmother who had killed Ulrich had been quite a revelation. Even more so because no one had ever suspected it, everyone assuming Egon must have done the deed.

And it had been just for the very simple reason that Mahala had not been enthused by her husband's return to Germany. She had wanted the freedom to continue having her pleasure with her long string of young male lovers, and had no use for a husband besotted with another man – a man becoming a Dark Lord, freely making use of the wealth Mahala had brought into the Von Krauss vaults, and depleting it all.

Poisoning her grandfather Ulrich, Kasimira admitted, had been wise and understandable, yet it hadn't spared a sixty-year-old Mahala from being murdered by one of her young lovers in a fit of jealousy.

Mahala's portrait had snorted dismissively at that. "You silly girl, how many times do I have to tell you – there is no such thing as Love." She quirked an impatient black eyebrow at her, the tattoo along her nose swirling slowly. "There is only lust and pleasure to make our lives more bearable."

After that, the 'Romani ways', as her grandmother had called them, had indeed allowed Kasimira to secure her own place. The Blood Magic and Potions that Mahala taught her were like none she had ever heard of or read in any books.

Poisoning her father's morning tea to render him impotent had been a trifle with Mahala's teachings in poison-making and ingredient-harvesting, thus ending whatever possibility of having a bastard sibling as a competitor for the Von Krauss estates.

It had also been about to serve her as a way of disposing of her most despised rival. At seven years of age, she had visited Nurmengard Tower for the first time in her life, during a gathering of the Dark Lord's Haupte Kommandanten and their families.

The children had been left in a vast room in the Tower's ground floor, while the adults had joined a meeting of some sort with the Dark Lord, before they could partake in any socializing activities.

Kasimira had been excitedly looking forward to it, to finally lay eyes on the person she despised and resented the most: Julian Erlichmann, the much vaunted heir of Egon Erlichmann.

She had prepared one of her grandmother's poisons, carrying it hidden under her gown's sleeve in a tiny flask, to get rid of the bane of her existence – the standard she was always compared with. Because no matter how astoundingly well she did with her tutors, no matter how very talented she proved to be, her father saw nothing but a girl in her, an unsuited female.

Yet nothing could have prepared her for the experience of seeing Julian Erlichmann in the flesh.

It hadn't been a smug, pompous, sauntering and boasting fifteen-year-old boy she had seen from afar, through the crowd of other loud, unbearable pureblood children, but a vision of loveliness.

There had been no smirk or inflated chest, no conceited pride, but a boyishly handsome face of guileless, sky blue eyes and short waves of coppery hair. Nothing in the boy's demeanor but softness, kindness, and –intriguingly so- pain in his eyes, as though he held a crushing burden on his shoulders.

Julian didn't interact with any of the other pureblood children, but rather looked tense and wary, and strangely quiet, avoiding all others. Kasimira's curiosity had been piqued, of course, especially when she saw the boy slipping away from the gathering.

Her hatred of him had instantly vanished, replaced by a profound interest, when she had silently and covertly followed him, bemused when she heard him speaking to thin air, bizarrely so, to someone called 'Santi'.

It had turned all the more fascinating when she realized the boy entered Nurmengard's dungeons and stopped by the cell bars of a brutalized woman.

The conversation held had made no sense to the seven-year-old Kasimira. At first she had thought they were all mad: Julian and the prisoner –'Sybilla Spyros', apparently, as Julian had uttered- both speaking as though there was someone else with them.

But then, she had seen it: a glimmer of a rippling, a figure barely visible, standing by Julian's side, tall and broad-shouldered, some sort of strange, ghostly man, who shot her a glance over his shoulder just as Julian exchanged the next few words with the imprisoned witch.

Kasimira had taken a shaky step back, nearly tripping on her silk slippers, when the strange man's gaze captured her own, because for a moment she felt as though she was sinking into those eerie milky eyes, for a moment she saw flashes of images invading her mind, so speedily, such an avalanche, that there was not a second to take them in, but it all left her with a powerful surge of emotions.

Panting, she had ducked around the corner, fearful of what had happened, fearful of being seen by Julian, or of being approached by the bizarre phantom.

She had turned heel and silently fled back to the gathering, her mind a distressed havoc, because she had seen herself, older, in Julian Erlichmann's arms, and she had felt a profound well of boundless, maddening love.

'A little girl's crush' her grandmother Mahala had sneeringly dubbed her sudden change of heart regarding Julian Erlichmann and her increasing obsession in finding out all she could about him.

Yet from that moment onwards, it was intrigue she felt when she thought of the older boy, not hatred. An obsession that grew stronger when everyone began to speak about the boy incessantly, when Julian graduated from Beauxbatons with flying colors and became the youngest victor of the European Dueling Championship.

He had been in the lips of everyone, as he entered the Dark Lord's ranks, as he rose through them like a shooting star, as he became Grindelwald's alleged lover and favorite.

And all the while, though not meeting him again, Kasimira thought of him endlessly.

Years later, poisoning her mother to plague her with a long-lasting disease which would eventually kill her, had been just as simple as dealing with her father's attempts of begetting a male heir, ensuring Kasimira would receive Ludmilla's fortune whilst still young enough to be able to forge a new life for herself.

Gaining the freedom of movement she so desired during her first years at Durmstrang, had been just as easy.

"Get rid of your maidenhood, soonest," Mahala's shrunken portrait, that Kasimira had taken with her to school, had sharply advised. "It is the true shackle of a pureblood witch. You do not desire to preserve your chastity for the husband that will be chosen for you, I presume?"

"Of course not, Grandmother," a thirteen-year-old Kamisira had replied angrily. "Father has let me know that he's negotiating with an English family for my hand in bonding." She furiously gritted her teeth, raking her long nails on the portrait's frame. "A Malfoy! Two years younger than me!"

Mahala gave her a calculating look. "Then trade your maidenhood now, for something you hold dear."

Kasimira had nodded, and done exactly so.

She had already chosen her prey. It had only been too easy. She had noticed the way their Potions professor's eyes wandered to the girls' skirts and blouses during class, she had seen Mr. Poliakoff licking his lips, heard of some rumored incidents and knew of Durmstrangs girls' disgust and wariness for their obese teacher.

Nothing sordid could have truly happened, certainly, or Mr. Poliakoff would have long been history.

Her peers at Durmstrang were, for the most part, dim-witted, dull, and boring: girls vying to be the prettiest to eventually trap a worthy pureblood boy to be their husbands, their ambitions no loftier than being perfect hostesses, trophy wives, and brood mares; whilst the boys attempted to behave as befitted their family names, to be the best and make their parents proud, to parrot their same beliefs and attitudes.

Yet, they were all from well-respected dark pureblooded families who would smite Mr. Poliakoff without a second thought if the wizard dared lay a hand on their daughters.

They all had a sheep-like mentality to Kasimira, who had long ago shed any desire or need to be cherished by her own parents. None of them were her friends: she was too weird, her opinions too shocking and unfitting for a pureblood witch, her desire for independence too much of an aberration.

Girls mocked her, boys gave her a wide berth - "Mad 'Mira", they all called her.

Nevertheless, her reputation would serve her well, for she knew that, despite it all, she was a beauty. Thankfully, she had inherited her father's aloof, unattainable, icy handsomeness instead of her Russian mother's ugliness.

With a slim, petite figure which had, by thirteen, begun to develop some breasts, her hips slightly widening, she had reached womanhood. She had brewed and drunk one of the concoctions Mahala had taught her, and delayed one evening after the end of a Potions lesson.

Pretending, with a meek, shy voice, to have some doubts regarding an assigned essay, she had acted precisely as what she suspected the fat wizard was attracted to: a feeble, easily manipulated, defenseless little girl.

When Professor Poliakoff laid a fat, sweaty hand on her thigh, Kasimira let out a nervous twitter and kept asking him questions with an impressed and admiring, wide-eyed look on her face. When the man's disgusting, pudgy hand began to tentatively climb higher up her skirt, she giggled and shot him a confused smile.

The moment his hand grasped her breast through the fabric of her blouse, and she let out a frightened, weak whimper, she knew she had him, as Mr. Poliakoff licked his lips, sweating, and leaned his obese body closer to hers, nearly crushingly.

A few minutes later, Kasimira was supporting herself against the desk of her teacher, her blouse torn, her skirt hitched up to her waist, as Mr. Poliakoff pounded into her from behind, sweating and grunting like a swine, his unbearable stench making her grit her teeth, his grubby hands harshly groping her thighs and breasts feeling like crawling, slimy slugs, as he licked her neck, panted and garbled enthusiastically.

"This will be our little secret, yes, Kasimira?"

"Yes!" she squeaked in a terrified voice, making him groan in pleasure and thrust all the more excitedly and brutally.

Kasimira kept her eyes open as she faced the wall, not even flinching. The pain had receded away some time ago, the first time she had felt the trickles of blood of her broken maidenhood trailing down her thighs.

She felt nothing but disgust – for the man pounding behind her, that was, not for the act itself. It was a means to an end, as her grandmother had long ago taught her. And could be an experience of intense pleasure, sometimes, when done with beautiful young men at her mercy, with 'boy-toys' as Mahala often spoke about in a reminiscent, fond tone.

With a last, loud, breathless grunt from her teacher, she finally felt the pig's release spurting inside her, and instantly shoved him away violently.

Mr. Poliakoff nearly tripped over his pulled-down trousers, staring at her with shock, before he seemed to compose himself, a grave, chiding expression spreading over his fat, sweaty face, "Now, now, Fräulein Von Krauss…" He trailed off, a smug smile hitching his lips as he licked them and lowered his voice, "You are a very naughty, naughty little girl-"

"Spare me," bit out Kasimira as she briskly waved her wand and instantly clothed herself. "The act is over. Now, you and I are going to reach an agreement-"

"I beg your pardon?" spluttered the wizard, once more looking startled and confused by her sudden change in behavior.

"I said," Kasimira snapped impatiently, "that it's time for you to pay your dues." She shot him a mocking look. "Did you think this was for free, Mr. Poliakoff?"

The man flapped his mouth noiselessly, apparently struck-dumb, his chins wobbling as he stared at her, gobsmacked.

"In exchange for the fun you've had at my expense," Kasimira continued curtly, "I require the limitless use of your Floo Connection. You'll give me the password to your quarters and allow me to use your fireplace any time I so wish."

"Look here, child," interrupted Mr. Poliakoff, apparently gathering back his wits as anger broke on his fat face. "I don't know what you're playing at-"

"That will be our agreement," interjected Kamisira in a sharp voice, glaring at him, "if you want me to keep my mouth shut."

"You – your mo-uth shut?" stammered the Potions Professor, ogling at her, a look of horror on his face.

"You didn't actually believe I enjoyed that, did you?" spat Kasimira, scrunching her nose in revulsion as she pointedly glanced at his bare and now shrunken worm between his fat, hairy legs. "I'm afraid not-"

"You wouldn't dare!" snarled Mr. Poliakoff, violently pulling his trousers up and staggering as he attempted to launch himself at her.

"Rape!" she shrieked, which instantly made the man halt in his tracks with a terrified look on his face. She smirked at him. "Yes. See how it goes? I can scream again, if you want. And soon, we'll have a couple of your peers storming into the classroom. And I'll…. I'll…."

She trailed off, and covered her face with her hands, shaking and shuddering as she began to wail and cry. "I didn't want to, Headmaster! I asked Mr. Poliakoff to stop – stop! But he wouldn't – he – he-" Kasimira sobbed harder, as she cried out in a distraught, wretched tone, "He threatened me – he told me to keep quiet or else! I couldn't make him STOP!"

"Y- you – you're mad!" the Potions teacher croaked, his eyes wide as he stumbled backwards. "They were all right – you're deranged- I didn't force you! You asked for it, you wanted it-"

"I assume that's what all despicable pedophiles like you tell yourselves," interjected Kasimira coolly, arching a pale eyebrow at him. "I hardly think you could have mistaken the whimpers of fear I produced for you, as 'wanting it'." She waved a hand dismissively. "The point is, do you agree to the deal between us?"

Mr. Poliakoff seemingly choked on his own tongue as he spluttered, "No – no one would believe you! I'll tell them how you beguiled me-"

"I am a Von Krauss," snarled Kasimira, losing all restraint on her patience and temper as she advanced on the man, wand in hand. "Who do you think they'll believe? Especially when I can share our little tryst with them." She demonstratively tapped the tip of her wand against the side of her head, before she skewered him with a glare. "And you forget who my father is. I presume you've heard the rumors?" She arched an inquisitive eyebrow at him. "What do you think the Dark Lord's right-hand man would do to you if I wrote him a letter filled with splotches of tears?"

Mr. Poliakoff swallowed thickly at that, wiping the sudden break of sweat off his face with a pudgy hand, as he croaked, "What – what do you want?"

"I already told you," snapped Kasimira tempestuously. "Give me your password!"

"What did you gain?" demanded Mahala's portrait several hours later.

"Freedom," replied Kasimira as she tiredly dropped unto her bed, a wide, satisfied smirk spreading on her face. "I visited Paris, today."

It had been the beginning of her many travels to the outside world through Mr. Poliakoff's Floo connection. Glamouring herself was easily done with her wand before stepping into the man's fireplace. Devising how to gain the information she wanted had taken her a bit longer.

Nevertheless, in the following few years she had become quite adept at it. Leaving Durmstrang every night she felt like, flooing to all places, passing herself off as different people, visiting Beauxbatons, Italy, and even the Muggle World, following Julian Erlichmann's trail and that of those who had known him.

Discovering Julian's schoolboy-liaison with the Frenchman Laurent Didier had been one of her first triumphs, going to the extent of visiting the up-and-coming painter in his study in Florence, posing as a wealthy, old witch looking to commission a portrait.

In a moment of Didier's distraction, she had even stolen a silver locket she had glimpsed on the wizard's worktable. She wore it ever since. It held a beautifully painted magical daguerreotype of Julian Erlichmann – a younger, carefree version of him.

Discovering that Julian was part of a vigilante group led by Albus Dumbledore, named the 'Order of the Phoenix', had startled her, especially considering the source of the information.

She had long learned how to access her father's study in Von Krauss Castle through her grandmother's unsuspected mirrors. Konrad Von Krauss was a wizard who carefully kept records and files on everything. Not only scrolls with missions that the Dark Lord entrusted him with, but also with evidence of his own speculations, plots, and suspicions.

None of it bode well for Julian Erlichmann. And little of it made sense to her, after having found her grandfather Ulrich's writings in Konrad's study: filled with information regarding some sort of magical artifact dubbed as 'The Vessel'.

Not to mention her father's scrolls on Anacleto Armonious and Sybilla Spyros. When reading such, Kasimira had vaguely remembered having heard those names before, and the rumors associated with them.

Armonious for having been the infamous creator of Time Turners, still being sought at large by Aurors of several countries, whilst long ago she had heard speculations regarding the wizard's whereabouts – namely, secretly ensconced in Nurmengard Tower under the Dark Lord's protection, for some reason, if gossip was to be believed.

Moreover, the files and information her father kept on the man made little sense, filled with notes about 'altering timelines' and 'anchors' and such other incomprehensible, nonsensical dribble.

Sybilla Spyros, according to her father's notes, a descendant of the great, one true Seer, Cassandra. Yet, she had heard that name, time ago, when she had seen Julian Erlichmann in the flesh for the first time. The imprisoned witch, had been her.

Nevertheless, Kasimira had cared little about such matters, even when she had discovered her father's latest mission regarding the impending adoption of two boys from England.

It had made her spitting mad, certainly, but at the time her head had been filled with the triumph of the Dark Lord over Norway – and the celebration to be held in Egon Erlichmann's manor.

Finally, her time had come. The chance to see Julian again, and the means by which to accomplish it.

In the middle of her Fourth Year at Durmstrang, with few days left of class, she had sauntered into Mr. Poliakoff's private chambers.

As usual, even after the years that had passed by, the teacher had jumped in his seat, twitching nervously and casting her fearful looks as she proceeded to utterly ignore him as she used his Floo Connection.

The celebration was in full swing by the time Kasimira stepped out of one of Egon Erlichmann's fireplaces, dusting off her skimpy dress.

If there was one thing she had learned to envy during her journeys into the Muggle World, it was their women's lives. That any filthy, pathetic, magicless muggle woman enjoyed more freedoms and options in life than her, a pureblood Von Krauss, had been a hard truth to swallow, infuriating her in the extreme, making her shriek in outrage.

She had often seen them, walking down their disgusting, grimy muggle streets, in their scandalizing skirts that just reached under their knees, whilst Kasimira had spent her life in gowns that covered her ankles or school skirts that reached her calves. Women who worked for a living, earned their income, chose whom they married, even had recently gained the right to vote in some countries.

After her appearance in the gathering had caused quite a stir and shock in the onlookers –certainly, the stuck-up purebloods who brownnosed the Dark Lord did not often behold a girl in high-heeled boots, wearing a striped pantyhose and a slinky black dress with a plunging cleavage and a hem that barely reached her knees- she struck up a match and lighted the cigarrette dangling from her fingers.

She smirked as the action spurred another round of appalled whispers. It was one of the many things she had emulated from the muggle women she had once seen strolling in Parisian streets. Even for them, it was quite a statement.

Catching sight of her father, staring at her with a livid expression by the Dark Lord's side, made Kasimira's smirk become wider as she took a drag of the muggle cigarrette, inhaled deeply, and puffed out a cloud of smoke.

Rubbing her father the wrong way had become her favorite pastime, ever since her mother had died a month ago –finally– from a 'mysterious disease', of course caused by the Romani poison Kasimira had fed her years before.

Her mother's vast fortune was, at last, solely hers.

It was her who now controlled the purse-strings, it was her father who now had to bend knee and neck to her, and not the other way around. And the cherry on top of the cake was, of course, that her father was painfully aware of it.

"Put that thing off," hissed Konrad Von Krauss in a frosty, murderous tone as soon as Kasimira reached him, casting a revolted, furious glance at her cigarette, before piercing her with his icy eyes. "What are you doing here? You should be at Durmstrang. How-"

"Now, now, Father, won't you kiss your daughter?" quipped Kasimira with a pleasant smile on her face. "People are watching."

With gritted teeth, Konrad Von Krauss swiftly pecked her on both cheeks, as though wanting to get over the unpleasantness as quickly as humanly possible.

Kasimira's sharp smile grew larger, before she turned to a side and performed a perfunctory curtsy. "My Lord."

"Kasimira," greeted the Dark Lord, with a crooked hitch of his lips, a glint of amusement in his hawk-like eyes.

Gellert Grindelwald had always found in her an endless source of entertainment since she was a toddler. She had become so used to it that it no longer angered or bothered her.

She knew the wizard saw little in her to be of interest, except as a possible means by which to develop further ties with other families like the Malfoys.

Kasimira had soon departed from the pair, having no wish of giving her father the opportunity to take her aside to give her a harsh scolding, if he dared to. That night, she had other matters to attend to: she was on the hunt.

Whispers followed her as she made her way through the crowds and took another puff from her cigarette, making her inwardly savor every time one of them shook their heads at her or shot her father nastily relishing glances or pitying looks for having such a daughter. Yes, let them know she was not like any of their stupid, vapid daughters or nieces.

She caught sight of her target moments later: standing outside in one of the balconies, alone, staring into the night. His lips were moving quickly, as though he was speaking to thin air, distressed.

Kasimira's breath hitched with feral excitement, as her high-heeled boots clicked faster against the marble floors, his murmured, strange words reaching her ears as she drew nearer.

"… Israel… it will be given to them by the British, you say, after the war? It makes no sense! To carve out a Jewish country, in the Middle East of all places, from Britain's former mandate, filled with Arab citizens? What will happen to the Arabs there?"

Kasimira's eyes narrowed with suspicion and speculation, as Julian's voice kept rambling in agitation.

"… if what you say is true – that it will cause decades of warfare and conflict, and countless deaths of Palestinians, then this could be part of Spyro's plan! A way of getting muggles to murder each other – she hoodwinked the Guardians, of that we can be certain – of course I will still go through with it! But I'd like to know that my efforts won't cause a genocide in the future!"

Frowning, but much too impatient to give the nonsensical utterings a second thought, Kasimira stepped out as she hastily flicked aside one of the velvet draperies adorning the archway, the ruffling noise making her prey spin around in alertness.

She couldn't help the triumphant smirk that blossomed on her face as Julian Erlichmann stared at her, looking startled.

He was more perfect and lovely than she recalled from her foggy memory. Twenty-four years of age, he had now, if her information was correct. Much taller and handsome than when he had been fifteen, despite the paleness and gauntness of his face, despite the lack of lively spark in his sky blue eyes.

"Who are you?" Julian demanded sternly, to then cast the archway a befuddled look. "How did you enter?"

Kasimira quirked an eyebrow, glancing at the archway as well, before she smirked in dark amusement. "Was it supposed to be warded against intruders?"

Julian frowned, casting a glance to the empty air at his side, before he suddenly paled as though having received a great shock, some sort of dawning comprehension striking him as he glanced at her once more, a look of horror on his face.

Perhaps he had just then noticed her rather provocative and mugglish dress, Kasimira mused as she let out a sharp bout of giggles – the kind she could never repress when her blood rushed hot through her veins, like that of a predator scenting her prey about to be within clawing reach.

"We haven't been introduced," said Kasimira coolly as soon as she recovered her wits, forcing her thundering, racing heart to be still.

"Julian Erlichmann, at your service," he croaked weakly, in a clear attempt to be courteous and polite, giving her a jerky bow of the head.

He looked dismayed and scared out of his wits. Kasimira widely smirked at him, taking some steps and leaning against the balustrade, turning around to face him. "I know."

Julian gazed at her with a pinched look on his face, although also evidently waiting for the proper introduction of herself. She didn't give it, but kept raking his figure with her eyes.

"Can I help you?" he pressed, a forced hint of impatience and disinterest in his tone.

He was looking even paler than before, and twitchy, and kept glancing to a side, for some mysterious reason-

"Oh," said Kasimira, quirking an eyebrow as she glanced to all sides as well, an irked expression growing on her face. "Is that thing with you again?"

"That… thing?" echoed Julian, snapping his head around to pierce her with his gaze. "What thing?"

"Your ghost – of some ancestor of yours, I presume," Kasimira expounded impatiently, waving a hand dismissively. "Or whatever it is."

Julian looked faint and alarmed for a moment, his gaze darting to a side before his eyes narrowed at her. "You see him – now?"

"No," replied Kasimira as kindly as she could muster, which was never much. "I saw it years ago, when we met for the first time."

"I've never met you," ground out Julian, looking angered, shooting an accusing look to his side.

"I was seven," said Kasimira with a low chuckle, her icy eyes sparkling, "and you were fifteen. It was the first time I set foot in Nurmengard. It was during a-"

"A gathering of the Haupte Kommandanten and their families," breathed out Julian shakily, his sky blue eyes widening as he stared at her with a colorless face. "I don't recall you."

"But I do you," retorted Kasimira with a sharkish smile.

"You can't possibly be—" mumbled Julian under his breath, looking poleaxed as he kept staring at her "—give me solace and comfort… can't be… you're just a child…"

"I'm fifteen," interjected Kasimira, her eyebrows climbing higher, before she shook her head.

Well, she had never ruled out having to put up with insanity in a lover – she had plenty of her own, to begin with, according to most.

And he would be her lover. It seemed to her she had decided such when she had been a mere little girl, when she had seen that he was not what she had expected, when he had piqued her interest as none had before.

She still argued about the matter endlessly with Mahala. Her grandmother was not impressed with her choice or obsessive feelings, but rather 'vastly disappointed' as the portrait had often and cruelly spat at her.

Men were playthings in Mahala's view, to be used and discarded for one's own aims, and to use for pleasure when one found a desirable and malleable 'boy-toy' - her grandmother was still inordinately fond of the term.

Yet, Julian could be her boy-toy, as much as he already was that of the Dark Lord's, according to wagging tongues. Moreover, he was what she should have been – what a pureblood heir should be, much hailed and praised by all, proper, talented, powerful, and in the Dark Lord's highest esteem and ranks.

He was what her father envied in his eternal rival Egon Erlichmann. Julian had the gender she should have been born with, he had everything she had ever wanted.

It was only right that she should taste and have it all, through him. That her curiosity turned obsession had grown, through the years, to become fascination, need and huger for him and what he had, was only natural.

Thus, it was only fitting that she had chosen him – her first true lover, the one with which she wanted to finally feel the pleasures that could be had in sex, according to Mahala.

"A child," declared Julian with clenched jaws, looking furious, as though he had been tricked and cheated. "A girl."

"Girl?" Kasimira snarled furiously as she jumped away from the balustrade. "Perhaps." She let out a sharp, grating chuckle. "But 'child' I have not been for years. I am no maiden!"

"Hardly something to be proud of," muttered Julian, eyeing her with distaste, expression that deepened as his gaze trailed over her skimpy dress.

Kasimira hissed under her breath as she leapt at him, fingernails poised as she embedded them in his cheek, raking the tender flesh.

Julian recoiled, yelling in startled shock as he clutched his injured face.

Kasimira laughed as she slapped him hard on his unprotected side. "My sweet – lovely – Julian "

"Restrain yourself!" bit out Julian angrily, as he forcefully grabbed her slender wrists.

"Some fight in you, Erlichmann, finally!" chuckled Kasimira nastily, before she shot him a lewd, appreciative look. "I do like feistiness in my lovers, I think."

"Lover?" Julian shook his head as he gently released her, taking a step back, looking dispirited as he tiredly rubbed his gaunt face. "This is ridiculous…"

"Where are you going?" snarled Kasimira when the young man turned to leave the balcony.

"I apologize," shot Julian quietly over his shoulder. "There has been a mistake."

"What mistake?" hissed Kasimira angrily under her breath. "I have yet to give you my ultimatum!"

"Ultimatum?" repeated Julian, turning around to face her with an annoyed frown on his face. "What ultimatum? I don't even know who you are."

Kasimira threw him an impatient scowl. "I am Kasimira Von Krauss!"

"Konrad's mad daughter?" Julian stared at her, before he erupted into a hollow bout of laughter, glancing at his side. "Of course! Who else would it be but a Von Krauss – were you going for irony, eh?"

"What irony?" snapped Kasimira, at the end of her rope with utter ill-temper. If there was something she couldn't abide was to be laughed at.

Julian shook his head, and cast her a brief glance. "This is madness. It has not been a pleasure meeting you. Farewell, Fräulein Von Krauss."

Kasimira gnashed her teeth, fuming, as Julian began leaving the balcony. "You haven't heard what I have to say, Erlichmann."

"I've heard enough."

"I want you as a lover," Kasimira bit out thunderously.

"I am nothing but a stranger to you, child," threw Julian over his shoulder in a tired and disinterested tone, as he set a foot on the threshold of the archway, about to enter the gathering's main room. "Go to your betrothed."

"It's not Abraxas Malfoy whom I want!" snarled Kasimira, raising her voice when Julian had nearly vanished behind the curtains. "You are no stranger to me – I know more about you than any other living soul – I know about Laurent Didier!"

She barely saw him as a shadow behind the draperies, as Julian came to a sudden halt.

In an instant, he was back outside in the balcony, brusquely and painfully grabbing her shoulders, shaking her hard, as he spat furiously, "What did you say!"

Kasimira stared up at him in fascination, giddily breathless at the show of liveliness and emotion on his handsome face – no longer acting like an apathetic, shell of a wizard, but with passion, with fear, with rage.

"I know about Laurent," she breathed out, smirking triumphantly at him as she pointedly withdrew her pack of muggle cigarettes from her purse, not easily as he was still keeping a tight, restraining grip on her shoulders.

"Gitanes," mumbled Julian under her breath, his sky blue eyes darting to hers as he suddenly released her, taking a step back, looking fearful. "That's Laurent's brand."

"It's not the only thing I once took from him," retorted Kasimira with vast satisfaction, as she pulled out the silver pendant dangling inside the cleavage of her dress, clicking it open, displaying the daguerreotype of a cheerful, younger, waving Julian.

"Laurent painted that, ages ago," Julian choked out, his sky blue eyes fixed on it. "How did you get it?"

"I paid him my first visit a while back," replied Kasimira smoothly, her smirk turning feral as she continued, "He's always been a very valuable source of information." She snorted disparagingly. "I cannot say I was impressed by your taste in men." She cocked her to a side, mockingly. "I suppose you valued that he was besotted with you. Wouldn't stop yammering about you when I told him I had a niece who knew you from Beauxbatons."

"Niece, you?" Julian blinked at her.

"I am rather adept at Glamours," said Kasimira smugly. "I am The Gypsy of Many Faces."

Seeing his confused expression, she waved a hand dismissively, her smirk widening as she lit her cigarette and took a long, savoring drag from it. "Imagine my surprise the last time I visited him, pretending to be one of his loyal, long-held customers. Imagine what I thought when I mentioned you, and he didn't seem to understand what I was speaking of." She cast him an excited look. "You have Obliviated him."

"Not me personally," muttered Julian, looking pained and distressed, as he shot her a careful, gauging look and gritted his teeth. "Is this your ultimatum? I have to do what you want or you'll say something about Laurent to the Dark Lord?"

Kasimira felt a surge of maddening rage, at that. Didier still not out of mind, as she had presumed, if Julian was willing to protect the Frenchman by yielding so easily to her.

She forced herself to remain composed, as she took another long drag from her cigarette, enjoying how the pause made Julian stew in his anxiousness.

"I don't care a whit about Didier," she finally clarified. "If you want to keep the fool safe, so be it."

"Your father has put you up to this," snapped Julian heatedly, his hand tightening around his wand, "hasn't he? He sent you to me, to make me say something that will condemn me before the Dark Lord-"

"Don't be ridiculous," hissed Kasimira, throwing the cigarette to the floor and squashing it with the high heel of her boot as she angrily plucked a picture from her purse. "If I was my dear old father's spy, do you think I would show you this?"

Julian ripped it from her hands, staring down at the wizarding photograph with a confused frown on his face. "What's this supposed to be?"

Kasimira tittered as she tapped the picture with a blood-red fingernail. It displayed a proud young man being embraced by his parents, Beauxbatons Palace behind them. "It was presumably taken on your graduation day."

"I don't know who this is," bit out Julian testily, shooting her a glower.

"Not him," interjected Kasimira loftily, her smirk widening. "But the figures in the background, entering the school. Four people – Albus Dumbledore, Laurent Didier, yourself, and a witch that according to my father's notes, could possibly be Didier's English aunt, Aurora Bones."

Julian instantly lost all color from his thin face, as he mumbled tensely, "I see."

"Do you?" Kasimira gave him a feral grin, before she added breathlessly, "You are Albus Dumbledore's spy. You are a member of the Order of the Phoenix. You're a traitor – you've been hoodwinking the Dark Lord all along."

Blanching, Julian stared at her, looking so utterly lost and defeated, that Kasimira felt a burbling swell of sheer rage. She had no desire to take a weakling to her bed.

"Get a grip, Erlichmann!" she snarled, shooting him a thoroughly disgusted look. "I know this. My father merely suspects it. Do you think you'd still be alive if he had incontrovertible proof? He keeps tabs on you, and a rather thick file, but this-" she raked the picture with a sharp fingernail "- is the only thing he has thus far. Evidently, my father realizes it's not enough to make the Dark Lord turn against you. Not when he's as infatuated with you as he is, according to rumors." She leveled him with a hard look. "Do you understand?"

Julian gazed at her for a long moment, his exhausted, deadened expression slowly clearing to become one of embittered calculation. "I understand that you're blackmailing me."

"Finally getting there, are you?" she quipped with vast satisfaction, smirking.

"I also understand," he continued, frowning and gazing at her as though suddenly seeing her under an entirely different light, "that despite it all, by telling me all this, you're helping me. Why?"

"Do you think I care that you're betraying the Dark Lord?" Kasimira scoffed caustically. "Do you think I care about the politics forged by men?" she spat ill-temperedly, glowering. "The Dark Lord's cause, though I'm in agreement with it, means nothing to me. They're but the ravings of yet another wizard."

Julian oggled at her as though she had turned into a bizarre, rare creature.

"I'm still getting what I want," Kasimira clarified sharply, slipping him a piece of parchment as she smirked predatorily at him. "Be there in three days, at the stroke of midnight."

"What's this?" said Julian warily as he glanced at it.

"The address of a muggle flat in Berlin. I own it. Don't be late, Erlichmann," Kasimira said distractedly as she caught sight of her father in the gathering, clearly searching for her. "I must leave. We wouldn't want my father to see us together, would we?"

Giving him a hard pat on his injured cheek, she winked and vanished into the crowd of celebrating people.

Three days later, she stood up the moment Julian stepped into her flat.

He was still too thin, too dejected, too pathetically oppressed by whatever was burdening him, and Kasimira gritted her teeth in angered exasperation.

His wary look turned into one of puzzlement as he glanced at his surroundings, his eyebrows shooting upwards. "Everything is muggle-made."

"What can I say? I enjoy certain muggle items – we're all hypocrites at heart, aren't we?" Kasimira said dismissively as she lit a cigarette and turned on her gramophone, the powerful voice of her favorite singer ringing through the cozy, little flat.

"And… muggle music?" said Julian uncertainly.

Taking a seat on the wide bed dominating the small room, Kasimira crossed her legs, making the sheer, skimpy nightgown climb up her thighs. Not that Julian noticed or took interest – she hadn't expected him to.

Savoring the strange feeling of victory and peacefulness she experienced as she observed him glancing at her possessions with a hint of piqued curiosity, Kasimira said smugly as she patted her bed, "Make yourself comfortable."

Julian stiffened as he turned around to eye her, a tense expression on his face as his gaze swept over her revealing attire.

"I believe you're laboring under a misconception," he said with a sigh, approaching her with a gentle look on his face. "I am a –"

"Ganymede wizard?" supplied Kasimira with a roll of her eyes, tapping her fingernails impatiently on her bed. "Truly – I'm shocked," she continued dryly. "I couldn't have possibly imagined it – not after knowing about Didier, nor after being aware of the fact that you've being taking it up the arse during all your years of warming the Dark Lord's bed – which is no secret."

Julian frowned at her, before his lips thinned in distaste. "Must you speak so-"

"Plainly? Rudely?" Kasimira smirked at him. "Is a little fifteen-year-old girl's uncouth vocabulary shocking your delicate sensibilities, Erlichmann? I'm afraid you'll have to get used to it. I was raised by a rather foul-mouthed ancestor, I'm proud to say."

Julian apparently decided to ignore her glaringly inappropriate use of the German language, and sat by her side, looking resigned. "If you're fully aware of my preferences, what do you expect of me?"

"This," said Kasimira with a feral smile on her face as she grabbed the crotch of his pants. Unsurprisingly, there was nothing aroused in it.

Julian jerked away as though burned, scowling when she began to laugh.

"You're such a prude!" she shrieked with an immensely amused guffaw.

"I'm not attracted to witches!" Julian spat angrily, as he jumped to his feet, looking vastly offended by the whole ordeal. "And much less to a child!"

"Oh – you'll pay for that," Kasimira promised gravely, before she quirked a thrilled smile. "Come, the 'child' has a present for you."

Opening her wardrobe with a flourish, she observed with relish when Julian caught sight of the man dutifully standing inside.

Julian momentarily paled, before he staggered forwards, his sky blue eyes widening with unwitting, hopeful longing, as he croaked, "Laurent?"

He halted, though, as his mind seemingly noticed the impossibility of it and the small differences in appearance.

"Who's this?" Julian snapped furiously, rounding on her.

"A Muggle I found in the streets," Kasimira replied with a giggle, as she saw Julian's jaw clenching, the pain in his eyes, his dashed hopes, his fisted hands. "He bears an uncanny resemblance to the Frenchman, doesn't he?" She cast him a wide smirk. "Care to play with him? He'll obey any instruction I give him."

"This is-" began gritting out Julian, before he shot her a hard, wrathful look. "Release him from your Imperius Curse!"

"He's not Imperioed," Kasimira interjected with exasperation. "I don't cast magic in my flat. My father doesn't know about this place, and I'd like to keep it that way. The muggle is under the effects of a potion."

"Release him," ground out Julian, hatefully glaring at her.

"I think not," Kasimira hissed out angrily. "He's mine to do what I wish. He looks like Didier – what is the problem? Bed him!"

Julian cast her a wholly horrified look that soon transformed into one of seething anger. "I'm not sleeping with a random muggle man to satisfy your cruel, twisted amusement!"

"Easily resolved," bit out Kasimira impatiently, as he yanked a hair from the docile muggle. "I have just the potion for it. I will be Didier for you, then!"

"No!" Julian rushed forwards, gripping her shoulders as he gazed down at her with a strange expression on his face. His voice was low and soft, when he spoke next, "Von Krauss… Kasimira, there's no need for-"

"For what?" spat Kasimira, her skin crawling and her temper flaring tempestuously when she realized it was with pity that he was staring at her. "You think I have no self-esteem? No self-respect, because I would do this for you?" She glared murderously at him as she violently ripped away from his hold. "I'd be doing it as much for myself as for you, you fool! You think I would find no pleasure in experiencing being the man - the one who takes without giving?"

But she could see he didn't understand it, his pitying look not having vanished from his face.

"Leave!" snarled Kasimira thunderously. "Get out – now!"

Indeed, their first couple of weeks of nightly rendezvous had not gone over smoothly. They were too different, their personalities and morals at opposing ends, though it was for that very same reason that she found herself wanting him all the more.

Yet, slowly, it seemed, as the months passed by, when he visited night after night due to her threats of disclosing his duplicity to her father and the Dark Lord, they grew closer together, inevitably, like two lonely souls that only had each other, forced by her relentless stubbornness in getting what she had capriciously coveted since being a little girl.

"I've heard you're a talented musician." Kasimira cast him a speculative, eager look. "Play for me."

Looking at first hesitant, and then resigned, Julian sighed as he took a seat and fished out something thin and silver from his robes.

She realized what sort of instrument it was in the first notes, startled and marveled, as she found herself vastly enjoying the experience.

"The voices of Sirens, the trills of Phoenixes," Kasimira murmured, spinning around her flat, her gauzy gown flowing with her movements, like the wings of some delicate, ethereal fairy. "A magical flute…" She exhaled, entranced. "You play beautifully."

"You dance beautifully," came Julian's voice, laced with a hint of surprise and appreciation, before he continued the wondrous tune.

Kasimira shot him a large grin, and with thrilled excitement and joy, she noticed he was smiling behind his flute, his sky blue eyes livened as he watched her twirling.

Through the things she made him experience, through his yielding caused by weariness, through sharing her own troubles, she came to know him, to revel in it, take pleasure in him, and make love as only they did.

"What's this?" breathed out Julian, his sky blue eyes glazed over as he limply dropped to her bed, the smoking pipe falling from his relaxed fingers.

"Opium," whispered Kasimira as she peacefully curled by his side, giggling and slurring, "A muggle drug I've recently discovered. Did you know that in Paris' 13th Arrondissement there's a whole muggle neighborhood filled with those funny little Chinese people?"

"A drug?" Julian wheezed, a troubled look forcing its way unto his relaxed face. "You didn't tell me it was a drug,´Mira… I can't be drugged – Gellert expects me in two hours' time-"

"A have a potion that can sober you up," murmured Kasimira placidly as she played with his coppery curls of hair. "Don't you trust me by now?"

"I trust you," exhaled Julian as his eyelids fluttered shut. "I trust you…"

"Dream with the Green Dragon, Julian," Kasimira whispered with a wide smile as she peppered his face with biting kisses.

He cracked one eye open with much effort. "The – what?"

"Oriental muggle expression." She chuckled, caressing the soft, smooth skin of his neck, pressing her lips against the faint pulse point. "Dream, Julian."

Her smirk of triumph was a sincere and profound one, as his arm automatically wrapped around her as he fell into a placid sleep, as she nestled by his side and felt what was true joy for the first time in her life.

In all her years of having sex with diverse men, she had never felt any pleasure in it. It had always been a transaction, a tool for manipulation.

Mahala's lessons had been efficient and accurate – almost, because what she had with Julian, to her, was her source of intense pleasure. It was making love.

The tenderness, gentility, and kindness with which he had come to treat her, as though she was a delicate, rare creature under his care, cherished and treasured for all her peculiarities. The caresses they shared, the kisses that had nothing behind them but growing fondness, the utter lack of lust, lewdness, or the mechanical sordidness she had always associated with sex.

Her grandmother's portrait had always spoken of 'boy-toys', but never of the kind of lover Julian had become for Kasimira, the kind she hadn't known she needed.

And she came to realize what he needed the most, in return, during all those nights that they met in her flat, when she flooed from Durmstrang, when he escaped and came to her after carrying out a mission for the Dark Lord.

"I've heard that Didier is becoming quite a famous painter in Italy," Kasimira said casually, as she trailed a fingernail across Julian's naked chest, drawing a soothing pattern.

"He's always been very talented," said Julian, a hint of asperity in his voice as he cast her a gauging look. He soon shed all pretensions of calmness, scowling, as he bit out, "Why are you bringing him up again? You enjoy being cruel – you enjoy tormenting me."

"I do," said Kasimira with a sharp giggle as she suddenly sat astride his waist, forcibly pinning his wrists to the bed as she leaned her face inches from his. "And you do too - it's what you need."

Julian struggled slightly against her hold, before he sighed and went limp under her.

"See?" crowed Kasimira with a chuckle.

"I'm not proving your point by not throwing you off," snapped Julian, irked, shooting her a glower. "I simply don't strike witches."

"Oh, but you should," said Kasimira in a singsong, smirking as she slapped him hard, once, twice, thrice. "My sweet – lovely – Julian –"

Julian hissed under his breath, gritting his teeth until she was done. "Why do you always do that?"

"Why do you never stop me?" Kasimira pointedly arched an eyebrow at him.

"As I said," grunted Julian quietly, "I don't hit witches."

"You're too kind for your own good," snarled Kasimira as she restrained his wrists against the bed once more, glowering down at him.

Julian shot her a pointed, dour look. "And you're too ruthless, mad, and relentless for yours – and too violent."

"It's my violence and dominance over you that brings you release and peace," murmured Kasimira sharply as she gave him a quick, hard peck on the lips. "It assuages the burdens of your mind."

"I like feeling pain, do I?" muttered Julian sarcastically.

"You said it, not me." Kasimira smirked, before her expression turned grave, as she added, "You feel the need to punish yourself. If you would only tell me-"

"No," snapped Julian, giving her a gentle shove to unseat her, then jumping to his feet to don back his shirt.

"Just tell me what mission Dumbledore wants you to carry out!" shrieked Kasimira at the end of her rope, spitting mad. "Tell me why you're growing more restless, why you don't sleep well at night, why you're once more muttering Laurent's name in your sleep - and you only do that when you're distressed!"

Julian shot her an alarmed look, and Kasimira rolled her eyes, as she snapped, "You only do that when you stay with me. You know full well that the Dark Lord would have offed you by now if you muttered the name of a former lover when you share his bed."

Julian's shoulders slumped with relief, but she wasn't remotely done with him, and she snarled angrily, "Just tell me-"

"You know too much already!" bit out Julian sternly as he briskly strode towards the front door with outer robes in hand.

"I only know what is obvious – that your mission is too risky, that it doesn't sit well with you," hissed out Kasimira irately, swiftly following at his heels. "That you're putting your life on the line – for what? Laurent's sake – again?"

"For his – yes, and everyone else's!"

Julian had slammed the door shut on her face, but it had only served to make her all the more concerned.

She had noticed the increasing number of times in which he arrived to her flat looking dispirited, tense, and gaunt. And she thought to have cured him of all that during their first couple of months together. Now, his troubles were weighing heavily on him once more.

A week later, the discoveries she made left her all the more confused and fretful.

Shaking Julian awake, for once not caring of interrupting his much needed restful sleep, Kasimira glowered at him, as she hissed under her breath, "Who's Harry, Julian?"

Julian's sky blue eyes flew wide open at that, as he sat bolt upright. "What did you say? Where did you hear that name?"

"You were mumbling it in your sleep, just now," retorted Kasimira sharply, narrowing her eyes at him. "Who is he? I can put up with you saying Didier's name, given that I know what he means to you." She gave him an acrid sneer. "Yet, a new paramour, Julian, truly? Haven't you had enough men in your life?"

"He's not-" muttered Julian, blanching. "He's not a love interest, ´Mira."

"Then who is he?" she demanded tartly, skewering him with an incensed glower as she crossed her arms, her eyes narrowing. "Is this Harry… Harry Riddle?"

Julian paled dramatically as he stared at her, stunned, soon gripping her hard as he pressed anxiously, "Where have you gotten that name from?" His eyes widened in horror. "What have you been reading in your father's study? What do you know about him!"

"I see," said Kasimira crisply, as she forcefully extracted herself from him, heading straight to the door.

"Where are you going!"

"To see this 'Harry' once and for all."

"He's in London, ´Mira – be sensible!"

Kasimira spun around with a frown on her face. "He's in Von Krauss Castle, I should know." She grimaced hatefully. "Father expected me to play hostess to the little runts."

"In Von Krauss…" Julian stared at her, looking dumbstruck. "What do you mean – in your castle?"

Kasimira's frown deepened as she eyed him. "Haven't you heard? Didn't the Dark Lord tell you he had sent Konrad to England, over a month ago?"

"I was told your father was in Austria," mumbled Julian weakly, his face stark white.

"No," said Kasimira slowly. "He was in England. He came back a week ago, with Abraxas Malfoy. Remember? I told you I finally met him in the flesh." She snorted disparagingly. "Mahala is right about him – he'll make a suitably malleable husband for me."

All in all, she had to admit that the younger boy had satisfied her.

A year ago, following her grandmother's advice, she had begun writing to Malfoy, initiating a long succession of missives to hash out the details of their impending betrothal on their own, the terms of their future marriage, the rules they would abide, the freedoms they would give each other, the duties that would be enforced between them – covertly, away from her father's and the boy's grandfather's prying eyes and irrelevant opinions and demands.

That Abraxas was two years younger than her was a clear benefit, that he was handsome was of no importance to her except for the fact that a beautiful offspring was assured to come from them – one male heir, and nothing more, as they had finally agreed in their written negotiations.

She could bear that, in exchange for the further protection and liberties the Malfoy name would grant her, added to other freedoms assured by the boy as she would pay for that with half of the fortune she had inherited from her mother and with most of the estates that would be hers after her father's demise. Nevertheless, a couple of them would remain solely hers and she would still be fabulously wealthy.

Furthermore, she had Malfoy in her debt after she had suggested a solution for the boy's persistent troubles and main obstacle. She had sent him a tiny flask containing one of the poisons Mahala had long ago taught her.

It would do the trick. Moreover, it would be the same one she would have no compunction in using when the time came of getting rid of her husband, if he ever became a pest and reneged on any of his promises to her - the freedom to have her own life, live wherever she pleased, and have any lover she fancied, with discretion, certainly.

"And Harry?" pressed Julian in deep agitation.

Pulling out of her smug musings, Kasimira shot him a sneer. "And 'Harry' is one of the boys my father has taken in as a ward. He brought him to Von Krauss Castle today. If we're speaking of the same Harry, that is."

"I think we are," muttered Julian in a dismayed tone, turning quickly to grasp her shoulders, a plea in his voice, "Go see him now, ´Mira – use your grandmother's mirrors to enter undetected. I need to know why he's there…" He trailed off, shaking his head grimly. "No, I know why Gellert has finally chosen to act. But you must tell Harry that-"

"I'm not going to be your owl!" snapped Kasimira thunderously. "And much less when you still haven't explained your association with him." Before Julian had a chance to defend himself, she asked briskly, trying to mask her sudden panicked worry, "Do you have any reason to believe that the Dark Lord has kept this a secret from you because he suspects you?"

"No," sighed out Julian. "If he had any inkling that I'm spying for Dumbledore, I wouldn't be breathing." He rubbed his face tiredly. "He has done things like this before. He didn't allow me to participate in the siege of Beauxbatons, for instance." He grimaced ruefully. "He feels I'm too soft-hearted and useless when it comes to dealing with innocent children who have to be handled roughly."

"Let us hope you're right," Kasimira uttered tensely, before walking out the door.

As she had expected, Julian had been waiting for her when she returned to the flat.

"How is he? What did he say?" instantly jumped Julian.

"He's a strange one," muttered Kasimira under her breath, before she chuckled nastily under her breath. "And I caught him in quite a compromising situation."

Julian lost no time in bombarding her with questions regarding the boy's wellbeing, state of mind, and what not, yet Kasimira hadn't been too sure what to tell him.

Her mind had been swirling with the avalanche of information she had ever read in her father's study: Anacleto Armonious' notes about fantastical, theoretical possibilities of time-travelling and the creation of new timelines, of 'anchor souls' and the Sands of Times, of portals between two conjoined timelines and the destruction of the 'original path'; of the Seer Sybilla Spyros whom the Dark Lord had apparently turned into an Oracle, however briefly, before killing her, of her father's speculations about the information Grindelwald had gleaned from her memories of visions; on her grandfather Ulrich's research regarding the legendary Vessel, of the Jew Guardians that protected the secret; of Dumbledore and his Order; of Julian…

Staring at Julian, she had opened her mouth, having an inkling that she knew what he wouldn't tell her all this time.

She wasn't Dursmtrang's brightest student, despite her infamous reputation, for nothing. She could draw most of the connecting lines between the dots, yet she clicked her mouth shut the next second.

In the end, she cared nothing about the matter. She only cared about one sole thing, and she realized then that having garnered the strange, green-eyed boy's vow to help her protect Julian's life would not be enough.

She would have to deal with it by her own means, and she knew just how.

Surreptitiously plying a glass of scotch with a Sleeping Potion, and then offering it to Julian, Kasimira began to work as soon as the young man dropped like a log on her bed.

A few hours later, by the time Julian groggily awoke, they were both lying naked on the bed, their chests and torsos running with dried tendrils of blood that had oozed from the matching symbols Kasimira had carved into their skin.

"What's this?" croaked Julian, as he touched a cut in his chest, wincing, before his eyes widened when he apparently caught sight of just how many other patterns had been carved into him. "Mira?"

"Blood ritual," answered Kasimira placidly as she rolled on her side, propping her head on a hand to impassively meet his eyes.

"Ritual?" echoed Julian feebly, as he stared down at the strange, indecipherable symbols. "Romani?"

"Mahala taught it to me, yes," replied Kasimira coolly. "Never fear, the wounds will heal themselves in a matter of hours-"

"What?" bit out Julian, a look of mounting horror and fear spreading over his face as he caught sight of her naked breasts and the matching diagram there. He furiously turned to her. "What does it do, Kasimira!"

"It ensures your continued existence," she retorted smugly, shooting him a wide, triumphant smirk. "It has linked your life force to my own. As long as I breathe, you shall too. You cannot be killed-"

Julian jumped out of the bed, a terrified look crossing his face. "How does it affect you if I'm killed?"

Kasimira threw him a dirty look. "You can't be killed – that is the whole point."

"How does it affect you!" bellowed Julian irately, clear panic rising in him.

Kasimira sneered at him, remaining staunchly silent.

"You silly witch!" yelled Julian agitatedly. "How could you be so stupid – haven't I told you time and again that-"

"That your death is inevitable?" Kasimira jeered venomously as she jerked upwards on the bed, skewering him with an incensed glare. "That your fate was doomed years ago? That there's nothing anyone can do – that there's no escape for you?"

"Yes!" thundered Julian furiously.

"I do not accept that!" snarled Kasimira with fierce, impassionate anger, narrowing her eyes at him.

"Reverse it!" Julian snapped.

"It cannot be reversed – it cannot be cancelled. It's done," she said with vast satisfaction, her pale blue eyes blazing. "You are mine. I will not lose you. This will work, Julian-"

"And if it doesn't," he spit out, with a crushed, devastated expression twisting his features, "I'll die and you'll also pay the price! I never wanted this, ´Mira - I don't want this on my conscience too!"

"It. will. work," Kasimira gritted out with absolute conviction.

Julian shook his head, and seemed to deflate before her eyes, his shoulders slumping, a sorrowful look in his eyes, as he stared at her and mumbled softly, "You've made a grave mistake, and we'll both pay for it."

Kasimira had been left fuming, even more so as the months passed by and she rarely saw him again, the frequency of his visits dwindling down under feeble excuses of being too occupied with the Dark Lord and missions.

At least, it had given her time to hash out her plan, with the reluctant aid of her grandmother's portrait who still didn't agree with her choices.

At present, as Drumstrang's bells finally chimed the hour, Kasimira excitedly rose to her feet.

She cast Mahala's shrunken portrait a glance, as she demanded sharply, "Are you certain the villa's wards will protect us?"

"Romani wards are true and strong," Mahala replied curtly. "Old Romani Magic is unknown, undetectable, and unbreachable by any artifact of mainstream magic."

Kasimira nodded in relief. Julian had long ago told her about the Dark Lord's Globe that showed every magical being on earth and their location.

She knew that artifact was one of the reasons why Julian had never attempted to escape with Laurent Didier years ago, why he had made the choices he had.

The Globe had been the one true obstacle in her plans. Yet Mahala had offered her a solution: a small villa in Argentina that had long ago been abandoned and disused by her family, that she had never mentioned to her husband Ulrich, thus – that Konrad Von Krauss didn't know about either. With ancient, powerful Romani wards that were still standing.

It was her only hope, as Kasimira was determined that that day she would gain her freedom but also gift Julian with his own – with the escape he had yearned for so long.

It was only fitting, since that day was Julian's twenty-fifth birthday.

Kasimira smirked as she placed Mahala's portrait inside her packed trunk and began making her way into Durmstrang's hallways, ignoring the rushing-by students gibbering with excitement for their summer holidays.

Nearly a year after having made Julian hers, and at sixteen-years of age, she would be leaving Durmstrang and Germany forever and would be commencing her true life.

She would live with Julian in Argentina, only returning, of course, to marry Abraxas Malfoy, beget him a male heir, and then return back to the gentle arms of her beloved.

Kasimira certainly knew that she could also give Julian his heart's desire and include the Obliviated Laurent Didier in her plans. But then again, she had never had a selfless bone in her body.

She smiled sharply. She would have it all.

She finally halted before Professor Poliakoff's door, and whispered the password.

When nothing happened, she frowned and then pounded angrily on the man's door as she snarled under her breath.

Truly, the swine should know better than to change the password – she always used his Floo Connection on the last day of school. She didn't want to waste a single second in getting to her muggle flat, where she would wait for Julian's arrival. She had already sent him a letter with instructions.

"Fräulein Von Krauss-"

Utterly startled, Kasimira swirled around with wand in hand, and froze at the sight of the Headmaster staring at her with a grave expression on his face.

"Do follow me, please," continued the old Headmaster, his expression turning sterner.

"Where?" demanded Kasimira tensing, her icy eyes darting to the men flanking the old wizard.

Men in grey cloaks. Men she recognized: her Father's underlings in the Dark Lord's ranks.

Despite feeling nothing but horror, she straightened her spine, lifted her chin, and sneered acidly, "I demand to know what is happening. I'm not moving a toe until I'm informed."

"Certain matters have recently been brought to my attention by a letter from Herr Von Krauss," replied the Headmaster curtly, his expression darkening as he eyed her with a glint of disgusted contempt. "I'm afraid you will have to come with me to my office. Your father will retrieve you."

"I'm going nowhere!" Kasimira snarled, yanking an arm away as one of her father's minions made a move to grasp her. "Where's Poliakoff?"

"Professor Poliakoff has been dismissed from his post," retorted the Headmaster sharply, narrowing his eyes at her. "You will follow me, Fräulein."

"I see," she muttered thickly, a wave of panic flooding her as her gaze darted to all sides.

They knew. They all knew. Yet she had been so careful for all those years! How could have his father found out about Poliakoff, and about the Floo Connection she had been using for ages?

She had to find a way out – a way to her flat in Berlin, to Julian, to Argentina!

"Fräulein Von Krauss!" snapped the Headmaster, glowering. "Do not test my patience. As long as you follow instructions, your place in this school is still secure – much due to your father's influence. However, I will not hesitate to expel you at once if you do not comply."

Seeing the wands aimed at her, and one of her father's minions taking hold of her trunk, Kasimira threw the Headmaster a hateful and scornful look. "Very well. I will comply."

Surrounded at all flanks, she followed behind the Headmaster, seeing students casting them curious glances, feeling as though the ground was sinking from under her feet, that which had been so close within her grasp slipping through her fingers, fading into the distance, leaving her dizzy and blank.

Tom was doing it on purpose, Harry was certain. He cast a glance at his brother once more, scowling.

They were on their last day of end-of-year examinations, only Potions left, before they would leave for summer holidays.

At present, they were in the Slytherin common room, revising for their last test. Though evidently, his brother didn't require much of that, as prodigious as he was, and had taken to tinkering again with Tilly Toke's pendant.

Harry was sure it was merely to annoy him.

Whatever the pendant did, it was a moot point since they would be soon in Germany, and meeting Grindelwald for the first time, to boot. But Tom knew just how much Harry despised that pendant, how much he had feared what it could possibly do, whilst they had been in Norway. He didn't want to activate any trinket related to Grindelwald, at all.

Barely paying attention to the Potions tome in his hands, Harry wriggled on his seat, feeling the stack of parchments folded inside his back pocket.

Many good things had come from his and Alphard's incursion into Diagon and Knockturn Alley several days ago, most predominant of all, the information held in Borgin and Burke's ledger.

He was brimming with the need of sharing it with his brother. To show him that a 'Miss Hepzibah Smith' was currently in possession of the Slytherin locket, to show Tom her address and plan a visit to the witch's home and devise a way in which to nick their ancestors' heirloom.

Nevertheless, he knew it was best to do such when they were far away in Germany, to present it all in such a way that Tom would have to forgive him.

Not being on speaking terms with his brother for over a week felt wrong, exhausting, and painful. He needed Tom on his side for when they met Grindelwald, he didn't think he could manage on his own.

Harry knew how very challenging and difficult the moment would be for him, having to mask his fury, hatred, and disgust for the Dark Lord, having to play nice and behave with meek adoration…

He glared when a faint click resounded, seeing Tom with a look of utmost concentration tapping the pendant with the tip of his wand once more, at the other end of the common room.

Harry lowered his Potions book, though, when he caught sight of Orion Black leaning towards Tom with a pleading expression on his face, a stack of lesson notes in his hands.

Brightening, seeing a window of opportunity, Harry stood up from his couch.

"Where are you going?" asked Alphard, emerging from his own studies.

Harry silently waved him away and weaved through the packed common room. As he approached the other pair, he saw his brother momentarily absorbed in apparently explaining the properties of some potion ingredient to Orion Black.

Tom had left Tilly Toke's pendant on the small round table by his couch's side, and Harry slipped forward as covertly as he could, snatching it when his brother had his head turned around.

Without wasting a second hitch of breath, he sprung through the crowd of the common room, pelting towards the entrance.

He was tired of having to deal with Tom's stupid, mad plots, always one after the other. And he was putting an end to this latest one, whatever it was.

Just as Harry was jumping into the dungeon's corridor, he heard Tom's furious yell, and he forced his legs to run faster, gritting his teeth in anger.

Julian Erlichmann staggered as he approached Nurmengard Tower. He had just apparated back from a meeting in the Reichstag with the Führer's advisors and he was exhausted, Gellert having left the task of taking notes regarding what was discussed since the Dark Lord was busy with some other matters.

He frowned as he saw much buzzing activity as he came closer to the Tower. A moment later, he nearly froze in his tracks as he caught sight of what was happening: the dungeons' guards were frog-marching a group of prisoners into daylight, spilling into Nurmengard's front lawn, wands aimed at the crowd of cadaveric men and women who feebly dragged their feet in a line.

One of the guards he had long ago established a 'friendship' with gave him a cheery wave of a hand.

"Bernhard, what's going on?" said Julian with a mere tone of vague curiosity instead of alarm, as soon as he reached the young man.

"They're finally getting their just deserts – that's what," replied Bernhard with a wide grin splitting his broad face. He sharply jabbed the tip of his wand into the ribs of the nearest prisoner. "Ye hear – eh? Know where you're going, filth? To the camps –that's where!"

"The camps?" echoed Julian with a slight hitch in his tone, his gaze darting to the prisoners.

"Ja!" guffawed Bernhard cheerily. "Dark Lord decided that they ought to share the same fate as them muggles, they do!" He shot the prisoners a nasty, dour look. "Maybe then you'll flap your gums, won't ye? Only spilling the beans will save ye, ye hear?"

None of the emaciated wretches answered the guard and the man angrily shook his head, before he winked at Julian. "See? Useless. But a stint in them camps ought to do the trick." He slinked closer to him an instant later, excitement brimming on his face. "Say, is it all true about them camps? What ye've been hearing about 'em."

"Yes," said Julian with a wide smile on his face. "Very interesting things going on over there. Mad muggle 'doctors' doing all sorts of bizarre experiments, chopping off twins' limbs and sewing their parts back together – you know, that sort of thing." He waved a hand nonchalantly. "And our own Healers testing mudblood prisoners, to discover how they've come to have magic-"

"And them making new creatures, aren't they?" interjected Bernhard eagerly. "All kinds of – sticking Manticore jaws on prisoners, Chimera or Dragon parts in them too!"

Julian nodded, shooting him a smug look. "The Dark Lord's very own Eugenics program. If the muggles are doing it, so can we."

"Human-creature super beings!" Bernhard chortled in a thrilled tone. "Under the Lord's control, ja?"

"Certainly." Julian cast him a warm smile. "That's the goal. To fill up the ranks as much as possible."

"And with them Dementors and new Inferi too, we'll be invincible!"

"That's the idea," said Julian as he encouragingly patted the man's shoulder. He cast a glance at the shuffling prisoners once more, careful of not being too obvious in his desperate search, as he continued in an amiable tone, "Tell me, how are you transporting them to the camps?"

"Portkeys," replied Bernhard cheerily. "As soon as we have them outside the wards, we're taking 'em away."

"That's good," Julian said distractedly. "It'll be very quick and easy for you, then."

"Sure will!"

Julian barely paid attention as Bernhard kept enthusiastically rambling on, nearly becoming petrified when his gaze locked with a very familiar one: the sunken and heavily wrinkled black eyes of Abel Boschkowitz, the leader of the Guardians of the Vessel.

The tongueless old man didn't give him any sign, not a twitch of a facial muscle, merely held his gaze for a moment and then slowly looked away.

Julian needed no further indication than that, his throat constricting as he then caught sight of several other Guardians amidst the prisoners, that only he knew of.

The old leader's grandson, Aaron, who always spoke for him, and Aaron's little son and daughter were thankfully not amongst the crowd.

It wasn't as encouraging as he had expected, even if he had known that morning -when he woke up and realized what date it was- that it was all bound to happen then.

Nevertheless, Julian didn't feel remotely prepared. He was filled with countless doubts, uncertainties and misgivings. It all seemed so very unpredictable, delicate, and unstable to him now.

"You must only free us on the day the first of us are taken to the camps. She was very clear on the matter," Aaron had firmly told him after the fall of the Norwegian Ministry of Magic, when Julian had found out about the Nazi's and Gellert's plans to establish a network of concentration camps, when Julian had tried with all his might to convince Aaron and Old Abel that they had to take Dumbledore's portkeys and escape before it was too late.

The Guardians of the Vessel had been so thoroughly convinced that what Sybilla Spyros had once told them in her Seer's Truthspeech had to be correct, that they hadn't heeded Julian's anxious urgings.

And now, the first of them were going to be taken to the camps – Aaron had said they'd be called 'extermination camps'. Julian felt as confused about that as ever before, though it was certain it bode nothing good.

Nevertheless, he hadn't expected that it would be the Guardian's leader who would be taken. That it was a coincidence, because Grindelwald had never found out that he had had the Guardians under his very nose all that time, didn't bring him any relief.

If Old Abel was going to be imprisoned in one of the concentration camps – he, the only one who knew the secret location of the Vessel- how was Harry supposed to find it?

Harry, who was the 'Finder and Key' as Sybilla Spyros had once said, the one who had to locate the Vessel before any other – it was of the utmost necessity that it came to happen so, Santi had frequently insisted.

Not to mention that Old Abel could very well exhale his last breath any day now, once he was suffering the ghastly living conditions of the camps. And with his death so would his knowledge disappear.

Julian didn't like any of it one bit. He had come to be increasingly wary of the unfathomable repercussions that Sybilla Spyros' everlasting plot of revenge was causing, no matter Santi's assurances that her convoluted plan would ultimately fail.

Worst of all, he didn't have Santi with him any longer and felt the absence like a hollow wound in his chest.

Things had moved too fast, too strangely, lately.

A few months back, Santi had gone to Hogwarts to pay Harry a visit, then returning to Julian's chamber in Nurmengard Tower in a state of clear agitation.

"I must leave at once," Santi had told him in a strange, choked voice, and Julian had seen the fear and apprehension in his eyes.

"Where to? The future, you mean?" Julian had pressed, frowning concernedly. "Did something happen when you saw Harry?"

Santi mutely shook his head, before he pinned him with a hurried, demanding gaze. "You can manage on your own?"

"Of course," replied Julian, giving him a wane smile, hiding the fact that he felt the urgent need to discuss so many things with him, about Kasimira, about his increasing doubts regarding his role with the Jews. "You won't take long, will you?"

"I don't know," muttered Santi, before he vanished in the blink of an eye.

Santi had never returned.

And just a few weeks later, he had received a letter from Albus Dumbledore of all people.

Julian had smashed the glass figurine set up as a communication link with Laurent -and through him, his aunt Aurora and ultimately Dumbledore- time ago, when he hadn't been able to bear Laurent's letters anymore.

Ever since, he had considered that his task of reporting information back to Dumbledore had ceased.

His surprise had been staggering, one day he had entered his chambers to see a Phoenix perched on his chair.

"How did you get in here?" Julian had stammered in a choppy English, utterly taken aback. He recognized the bird, certainly. Had seen Dumbledore's familiar with his very own eyes, flying above the heads of the members of the Order of the Phoenix as they battled alongside Norwegian Aurors, against Grindelwald's forces. "But – Nurmengard's wards…"

He trailed off, as he remembered that even back in the Norwegian Ministry of Magic, Dumbledore's Phoenix had been able to break through the ancient wards of the building to make an appearance.

His astonishment had only increased when Fawkes had lifted a talon, displaying a small scroll tied around his leg.

Unfolding the piece of parchment, Julian blanched as he read what Dumbledore was demanding to know – and taking such risks in his need.

The first two questions hadn't surprised him much. The last one, though, had made him swallow thickly.

"He wants to know if I've heard Gellert speaking of any Harry or Tom…er…" He made a point of checking the parchment "…um, Riddle?"

Fawkes skewered him with a black-eyed gaze, that somehow felt too knowing and shrewd to him.

"I know of no Riddles," Julian had asserted quickly.

The Phoenix kept gazing at him, making him feel quite disturbed, and he had hastily quilled his reply:

G still seeking Vessel. Doesn't appear troubled by lack of success.

Guardians will be broken out soon. Not yet. Not the right time.

Riddles? Know of no Riddles. Heard of no Riddles. G has never mentioned such.

Watching as the bird gratefully and finally vanished in a flash of flames, Julian warily rubbed his face.

Just what had Harry been up to at Hogwarts to make Dumbledore take such keen interest, going to such lengths to discover more?

He had never been able to find out. Santi would have been the one to go to in such occasions.

At present, as Julian heard the first pops of portkeys being activated, he turned his head away from the sight, knowing he could do nothing for the Guardians and other prisoners being spirited away.

"… and I can't wait to see one of 'em camps with me own eyes!"

Julian shot Bernhard a forced smile, as he waved him in farewell. "You'll have a splendid time, I'm sure."

The moment the guards and prisoners had all vanished from Nurmengard's grounds, the smile stretched on his face dropped, and Julian hastened into the Tower.

He entered his chambers in a sprint. Grindelwald was away for the time being, Anacleto Armonious was as always ensconced in his locked room, Konrad Von Krauss was out with the muggle Himmler supervising the 'efficient' running of the camps, and he nearly had the Tower all to himself.

The time had come.

He was terrified, utterly scared out of his wits – not what he had planned to feel at the end of his road. Alas, he felt no stoic bravery before his imminent death.

Moreover, he had never spent so much time without Santi by his side, offering him advise and support.

Ruefully shaking his head, he made a dive for his desk and the hidden velvet pouch containing Dumbledore's galleons. Yet he paused when he caught sight of something. A small, yellow bird made of parchment – 'origami', Kasimira had once called her spellcrafted, quaint creations, she did always like bizarre muggle things from exotic places.

"A sweet, lovely songbird, to remind me of you – see?" she had said with a sharp smirk.

Julian touched the bird figure's head, causing the parchment to unfold from its convoluted twists until it laid flat on his desk.

"I have a wondrous birthday present for you," Julian read aloud under his breath, a pinched expression on his face. "Meet me at my flat."

Feeling a twist in his chest, Julian pushed the parchment to a side. He didn't need the guilt of knowing that she had given him so much, and he so little to her.

Rubbing his chest in remembrance, he could only hope that Mahala had known what she was doing. Surely the portrait of Kasimira's grandmother wouldn't have taught her a Romani Blood Ritual that could threaten Kasimira's own life.

Mahala had never liked him much, the few times Kasimira had shown him the portrait. Moreover, the portrait knew her granddaughter well enough to realize just to what uses Kasimira could put the Ritual to.

He couldn't afford to worry further about it.

However, now that Santi didn't seem about to come back, he could take a chance. He could dismiss Santi's rules and dire warnings.

Ever since finding out about the Vessel and Grindelwald's plans for it and Harry, Julian had not agreed with Santi.

Harry needed to know the real reason why Grindelwald had unleashed a war in the Muggle and Wizarding World. The boy needed to know, he needed to be prepared and protect himself.

He needed to be spared from the horrors – he needed to know about Sybilla Spyros, and the Guardians, and Ulrich Von Krauss' research, and Anacleto Armonious' work, and the altering of the timelines.

His resolve solidifying, knowing he had barely seconds to spare, Julian ripped open the lowest drawer of his desk, fishing out the matching pendant he had once used to communicate with Grindelwald's unwilling spy at Hogwarts, the long deceased Tilly Toke.

Julian knew the boys had taken it after the wizard's death. He could only hope they still had it…